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How Pfizer plans to keep its vaccine at subarctic temperatures during transport



Pfizer is now the first company to apply emergency permit of its coronavirus vaccine, sent a sprint of researchers at the Food and Drug Administration to approve it.

About 25 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine may become available in December, 30 million in January and 35 million more in February and March, according to information presented to the National Academy of Medicine this week. Recipients need two doses three weeks apart.

CBS News got an inside look at the logistical challenges of getting Pfizer̵

7;s COVID-19 vaccine to the public, including the required storage temperature that you would find in the coldest places on earth.

Colder than Antarctica in winter, dry ice – made from carbon dioxide – is essential for the movement and storage of these vaccines. Pfizer’s vaccine should be kept at 94 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Dry ice helps maintain the subarctic temperature during shipping.

Pfizer developed a thermal transmitter, which they call a “cooling box”, for the trip. It’s about the size of a carry-on.

Cool box
Pfizer’s “cool box” helps transport its coronavirus vaccine.

CBS News


“There’s dry ice going around it, and then it actually has a device inside it that has a continuous GPS and temperature monitoring,” said Tanya Alcorn, vice president of Pfizer’s BioPharma Global Supply Chain.

Each “cooling box” contains at least approx. 1,000 vaccine doses, which poses a challenge to rural areas with no space to store them.

Tim Size, executive director of the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative, which represents 43 rural hospitals across the state, said: “I do not think anyone will give a message that Wisconsin or rural America is second class.”

“If you can send 1,000, you can send 200,” he added. “It’s more expensive. It’s more cumbersome, but it allows rural people to be vaccinated at the same time that cities are being vaccinated.”

Pfizer told CBS News that they are working to ensure a fair distribution, which is just one of many challenges. Frontline healthcare professionals will be among the first to receive the vaccine, but according to a recent Gallup poll, only 58% of Americans said they would get it when offered to the public.


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